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Why Bill Guerin Was Exploring a Zach Parise for Andrew Ladd Trade Last Season

Photo credit: Nick Wosika (USA TODAY Sports)

It’s no secret that Bill Guerin is going to make roster changes to the Minnesota Wild during the offseason. Questions remain on the goaltending situation, a trade for a top line center and what to do about the Wild’s free agents. But one big question lies with one of the team’s biggest stars: Zach Parise.

Guerin had asked Parise if he would waive his No Move Clause before the NHL trade deadline on February 24th.

The complicated deal ultimately fell through before the deadline that had Parise heading to the New York Islanders. In the aftermath, those closest to the team believed it was likely that Guerin could re-visit the trade in the offseason. Fast forward through the four-month COVID-19 hiatus and an abbreviated postseason appearance, and the offseason for the Wild is officially here. 

It was reported that Minnesota was going to send Parise to the Islanders in exchange for Andrew Ladd, among other pieces to make the money work. Ladd played in only four NHL games last season. He and his contract were buried in the AHL for 34 games. Ladd is currently in the middle of a seven-year deal with a $5.5 million AAV for the next three seasons.

It’s a terrible contract.

However, that’s the kind of deal that’s going to be made. It’s a bad contract like Parise’s — in terms of remaining length of the contract, and flexibility coupled with the age of the player — swapped for a truly bad contract like Ladd’s because the player is no longer playing the NHL. This kind of trade isn’t one that the Wild can ask for a high draft pick or a top prospect for taking Ladd off the Islanders’ hands, either. It’s a problem for a problem.

What is a Parise trade solving if the team has to take on another bad contract? Looking at productivity the last three seasons, Parise was worth 7.4 Standings Points Above Replacement, tying him with Anthony Beauvillier, Jonathan Toews and David Perron. Ladd has two seasons that qualify and is only worth 2.1 SPAR, according to Evolving-Hockey.com. Trading Parise may move a detestable contract, but leaves a large hole in the roster in terms of on-ice production. Even as Parise ages, he’s still worth some value to the Wild.

On the surface the trade — whether it was made at the trade deadline or in the offseason — doesn’t align with trying to improve the on-ice product. Digging deeper, Guerin has reasons outside of the play on the ice to make this move.

The first has to do with roster flexibility. Ladd’s contract has three more years on it; Parise’s has five. That means the Wild recuperate $5.5 million right around the same time the salary cap may be allowed to change. No one knows just how the COVID-19 global pandemic is going to affect the finances of the NHL. In a perfect world, fans come back in droves and hockey-related revenue climbs to a pre-COVID level. The salary cap maximum in that world would also climb. 

If hockey-related revenue shrinks, the cap will come down. Having $5.5 million come off the books around the same time could give the Wild room to absorb the cap shrinking without losing a top player.

However, it’s more than a salary cap dump. Parise’s contract has a full No Move Clause which means that not only can he reject a trade to any team, he can also reject an assignment to the minors. Minnesota cannot do anything with his contract without Parise’s approval. By unloading Parise for Ladd, the Wild moves a rigid contract for one with slightly more flexibility. 

Ladd was able to be buried in the AHL last season because of his contract. It may be dead money burning a hole in the minor league budget, but it leaves a roster spot open on the NHL lineup card. If Guerin is looking to make the team younger and faster, turning over long-held roster spots is a way to achieve that. 

Finally, Guerin wants to change the culture of the team. Mikko Koivu’s contract has expired. Not bringing back the former team captain next season is already a step toward a culture change for the franchise. Although he’s been a very good player for the franchise and bleeds Green ‘n Wheat, the team needs a new direction. Guerin can seize upon this opportunity to let the locker room know he means business by trading Parise.

With Koivu gone and a trade of Parise in one offseason, two gigantic voices and influences are removed from the locker room. If you’re Bill Guerin and are looking to change the culture, shaking up the core of Parise, Koivu and Ryan Suter goes a long way.

This isn’t to suggest that Parise was, is or has ever been a problem in the locker room. By all accounts, he wants to win and conducts himself with the utmost professionalism. When healthy, he’s been valuable to the team by consistently scoring at or near a 30-goal pace. Not to mention that Parise has been the team’s top playoff performer

The trade makes almost no sense when you put Ladd’s numbers next to Parise’s. The cap space gained isn’t enough to allow the team to go out and spend big during free agency. But Guerin wants to re-make this as his team, not just make tweaks to a vision of a bygone general manager. When you look at the trade that way, making the move makes almost too much sense.

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